In 1984 I played around with a machine that was destined to change the world. When I first saw it I could not believe it was what it was. It was small and compact but oh, so cool. Compared to other machines of its type, this one was completely different — inside and out.
That machine was a Macintosh computer. Yesterday, I finally purchased one. A 20-inch iMac with a 250GB hard drive, a gig of RAM, an AT RAdeon video card, and the rest of the god stuff a Mac brings. Let me explain why it’s taken me this long to buy one.
Macs, historically, have been very expensive. When the Lisa (the Mac’s mom) came out in the early 80s it was priced in the high four figure range. For a person earning a salary that was only a little more than the Lisa’s price, that was an impossiblity. Then the Mac (now known as the “Classic”) came out, and I had already invested money in a PC and it was too late. When the 90s came around, and after my second downsizing, I decided to start a small graphic design firm with a good friend of mine. We did price comparisons at the time (1992) and we would have had to spend close to $9,000 versus $4,000 to equip our studio with Macs running Adobe Illustrator versus PCs running Windows 3.1 and CorelDraw. Price won the day again.
Don’t think I didn’t use Macs, though. Our service bureau had them and I knew how to use the applications. I loved it. I drooled every time I used one and had to flog myself like a penitent Shia every time I came back home to my PC.
During those dark, wilderness years I used, like many of you, PCs loaded with Microsoft operating systems. First, it was MS-DOS, then in 1990, Windows 3.0. (Remember the “unrecoverable application error”?) Three dot zero was an improvement over DOS, but it was a pale imitation of a Macintosh. However, I used it. I learned to become a masochist. I reveled in the pain that Windows 3.0, and then 3.1, caused me. (Remember the “general protection fault”?) I suffered every day and began to enjoy it. If a day went by without me yelling obscenities uncontrollably at my monitor, my day was not complete. Then came 3.11, which was an improvement. Sort of like preferring to have a shattered kneecap rather than a gunshot wound to the stomach. I lived with it. I enjoyed and revelled in the the pain some more.
In 1996, and very fearful of upgrading because of the horror stories of incompatibilities, I was finally humiliated by a fellow geek into upgrading when I told him I still used Windows 3.11. My embarassment was devastating, his critique spot on. So I went out, and in an attempt to better my tormenter, I priced Macs again. Still, too expensive. Damn. Damn. Damn.
At that point, rather than taking my collectible Japanese dagger out to disembowel myself, I decided to to upgrade to Windows 95. It worked fine for a few years with a minimum of pain. (Not a shattered kneecap, this time; it was akin to a migraine that comes and goes quickly.) Then, in true masochist form, I decided to follow the herd and install Windows 98 Second Edition on my PC. Here my friends is where the story gets worse: from 1999 until late 2002, I ran that piece of shit OS every day, and every day, I had problems. Crashes, updates, reinstalls, reboots. You name it. I was almost committed by my wife at one point for having a sotto voce conversation with my computer wherein I threatend it with an ignominous end in the Everglades at a shooting range.
A good friend of mine who works at a large company that produces software in the Pacific Northwest region (we’ll call her “Nina Myers” to protect her identity) told me to forget my old apps, start from scratch, and install Windows 2000 Pro on a fresh hard drive. “Nina,” I explained, while adjusting my thorazine drip, “I can’t handle any more OS relationship rejection. I… I… just… can’t deal… with it… any more.” The dagger was calling my name. As it turns out, Nina was correct — in the 90 percentile. I lived with Win2K (as we cognoscenti know it) from 2002 until this summer, with a minimum of problems, and occasional crashes.
Then, once again, thorazine drip next to my desk, ceremonial dagger close by on the shelf, I decided to upgrade to Windows XP Pro — an upgrade, as MS recommends, not a clean install, because I could not afford to lose the settings in the software I had installed for my free-lance business. Actually, that statement is not completely true. I didn’t decide to upgrade; software I had purchased forced me to upgrade. Since that fateful weekend, my friends, my computing life has turned into the equivalent of Saddam hiding in his spider hole. Here are some stats. My average boot time, from the moment I turn the PC on, to the moment all the apps are loaded: 6 minutes. Shutdown time: 3 minutes. Open Microsoft apps: longer than they should. My Adobe and Macromedia apps: don’t ask.
So I decided finally to bite the bullet and buy a Mac. I wrote this essay on it. It’s a pleasure to use. My boot time on the Mac? about a minute.
Life is good.
(Author’s note: I corrected the original text because I made an error in the chronology of one of the paragraphs. My WinAmnesia was suddenly lifted by simply using a Mac for 48 hours…)